October 24

Here we are in Tarawa in Kiribati. This is a strange and interesting place. First of all it is the hottest place I have ever been to as we are at 1 and a half degrees from the Equator (which is about 90 miles). It must be close to 100F. It is a coral atoll (long and narrow) around a quarter mile wide at it widest and less mostly. It is heavily populated as it is the capital and people flock here from the many outer islands. Visually from a distance it is lovely unfortunately they have no sanitation system and the toilet is the lagoon. This creates not a healthy lagoon and one can not swim in it despite its lovely emerald blue appearance. There are rumors of occasional outbreaks of cholera. Indeed, I do not think there is any type of sanitation department and trash is deposited in random piles around the island. Big sigh. But the people are lovely, friendly and even fun loving. 

The first day we got here we took a bus to go to a hotel for lunch. No one spoke much English and we missed our stop and ended up going on a 3 hour round trip of the southern part of the island. The “bus” was a van which stopped when ever someone stuck their hand out and everyone was dropped right in front of where they wanted to go even if this meant a stop every 20 feet. People crammed into the van sitting happily on each other with a kind of politeness I can hardly describe. We would stop and children would clamber in on any adults lap. There was a lady in back who took money and she happily sat on various peoples laps for various stages of the trip. The oddest thing was that everyone smelled lovely, despite it being 100 and everyone sweating heavily. It was as if everyone just took a shower and put cologne on. This is on an island with hardly any water! So different from Vanuatu. I speculate that smelling good is a cultural value precisely because water is so valuable although I can not confirm this. The houses here are basically roofs with sleeping platforms and bags of clothes. I think they cook in communal kitchens and they perform bathing and toilet activities in the lagoon. Indeed the exact translation in Kiribati for going to the bathroom mean literally “going down to the sea”. 

There are 6 other boats here now. We got together for a potluck on “Dirty Dottie” and had a lovely time meeting new people and people we have not seen in two years!

There are NO vegetables here beside onions and garlic and the occasional cucumber for some reason. We are in a bit of a despair having not been so deprived in years. There is a shipment expected on a boat on the 2nd of November. The shops are small and poorly stocked although everyone carries reasonably price canned soda (carbonated drinks) and there are piles of cans around the island. We might just rough it the next couple of weeks till we get to the Marshall’s where imported vegetables are more available. I think we can hold scurvy off with lots of onions and fresh meat! The bottom line is how long we can stand to be here as the heat is really hard to take without the ability to swim.

Jonah had his seventh birthday. We decorated the boat, made a cake and had a lot of fun. He loved all his presents and was thrilled with his cake despite it being slightly lopsided and his parents half dead with heat.